Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the weather turns chilly and the days become shorter, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, could affect you and your family.  SAD is a type of depression that affects a person during the cold, winter months.  If you get depressed in the winter but feel much better in spring and summer, you may have SAD. 

The disorder may begin as early as fifteen, but the risk of getting SAD for the first time goes down as you age.  People who live in places with long winter nights are at greater risk for SAD.  Other factors that may make SAD more likely include the amount of light that a person is exposed to, body temperature, genes, and hormones.

Symptoms usually build up slowly in the winter months and may include:
  •  Increased appetite with weight gain
  •  Increased sleep and daytime sleepiness
  •  Less energy and ability to concentrate in the afternoon
  •  Loss of interest in work or other activities
  •  Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
  •  Social withdrawal
  •  Unhappiness and irritability
According to NIH, antidepressant medications and talk therapy can be effective.  Taking long walks during the daylight hours and getting exercise can make the symptoms better.  Keep active socially, even if it involves some effort.  Light therapy that mimics light from the sun may also be helpful.

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